Many people are turning to “sunless tanning” as a safer alternative to the harmful effects of UV rays from sunbathing or indoor tanning beds. However, new research suggests that people who use these methods are still commonly engaging in risky tanning behaviors that may lead to skin cancer.
In a study published last month in the medical journal JAMA Dermatology, researchers found that people who turn to sunless tanning options often still use indoor tanning beds, continuing to place themselves at risk of developing skin damage, or worse yet, cancer.
Researchers analyzed data for more than 27,000 men and women in the U.S. who were over 18 years old. Data was taken from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey.
A total of 6.4% of people reported sunless tanning, which involves the use of products like sprays, creams, foams, lotions, or ointments that offer a tanned skin appearance without the damage to the skin done from sun exposure or indoor tanning beds.
Researchers noted sunless tanning was most common among young, white college-educated women, people living in the Western United States, and those that had a family history of skin cancer.
Despite this group of people turning to a healthier tanning alternative, many still reported risky skin cancer behaviors.
Sunless tanners were more likely to use indoor tanning facilities. They were also more likely to report having a recent sunburn, which is one of the first indicators of skin damage.
Among people who reported having ever used indoor tanning facilities, those who also reported sunless tanning were more likely to use the indoor tanning salons more frequently than people who did not sunless tan.
Sunless tanners were also less likely to seek shade when out in the sun or use protective clothing, like long sleeves, when outdoors. Overall, sunless tanners were more likely to take part in risky sun or skin cancer-related behaviors.
Researchers concluded that many people seem to use sunless tanning products in addition to indoor tanning, instead of as a substitute for indoor tanning. It is simply one more method of gaining what they perceive as the perfectly golden skin, whether it is a harmful method or not.
The findings come as a new report indicates the United States ranks 9th in the world for skin cancer susceptibility. The international study published by derma.plus, a dermatology group based in Germany, ranked 62 countries in order of the highest rates of skin cancer.
Researchers warn that incidence rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and non-melanoma skin cancers are increasing in the U.S. The report indicates that there are 72,000 cases of melanoma diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
While sunless tanning is a safe alternative to outdoor tanning or indoor tanning salons it isn’t safe if people are only using it as another way to get tanned skin, instead of as a substitute for risky indoor or outdoor tanning behaviors, experts warn.